10 hidden features of iOS 4

Everyone knows that the iPhone and iPod touch update to the iOS 4 software is going to bring multitasking, app folders and a digital zoom on your camera. If you don't, then you might want to take a look at the headline features. You might also want to check that all the new trinkets are available to play with on your particular device but presuming you're already an expert in these departments, here are 10 additions you didn't know were coming your way.

Support for Bluetooth Keyboards

Who needs an iPad when you can wirelessly connect a keyboard to your very own Apple mini-tablet via Bluetooth? What with the high res retina display now available on the latest iPhone, you can now pretty much use your handset as a complete desktop and mobile computing solution - well, provided all you need is to write e-mails and do small size browsing. Either way, the point is that you can type more easily by using a hard keyboard too. The only issue here is that it looks like it's only the Apple Bluetooth keyboards that will be compatible. Do let us know if you have any success with those of another brand. One that folds up into your pocket would do nicely.

Rotate and resize photos

It may not be a full on picture editor but the ability to get your snaps into the right orientation and a decent size to mail according to your data budget is a rather useful addition. Instead of a proper scaling tool, the choices will be small, medium, large and actual size which will work out as tens of KBs, 100KB, a few hundred KBs and nigh on 1MB respectively, depending upon which iPhone handset you actually own.

Wikipedia and Web search

Spotlight's a very useful tool. If you've never heard it called so, that's Apple's name for the search function you get when you pull one page left of your app screens. At the moment you can use it to search emails, your apps, music and podcasts, and once you've installed iOS 4 you can add both Wikipedia and the web in general to the list making that feature better by a factor of around 10,000.

Switching off cellular data

You can already shut down 3G use and roaming within the settings menu but if you've managed to go bust with your monthly data usage or you just want to ration yourself a bit more carefully, iOS 4 now allows you to turn off EDGE and GSM cellular data as well. You might want to try combining this with a 3G Watchdog-type app or its equivalent on the iPhone platform. That way, you've then got both the metering and the tools to do something about it. Very important as the networks begin to bring the barriers down on data use.

Orientation Lock

To say that this one's hidden isn't particularly true seeing as you can access it on the front page, but orientation lock has not been widely publicised as one of the bigger boons of iOS 4 which, to give it its dues, it is. We all know the annoyance of the accelerometer kicking in when you don't want it to and its confusion when you're trying to browse your phone while lying down. The software update lets you lock the position that the screen is displaying, at the touch of a button and unlock it again just as easily.

App-specific location settings

You'll have to drill down into the settings menu for this one but it's well worth playing with. Rather than just switching location use off and on in blanket style, you can manually decide which apps can access your GPS information whenever you choose. So, if you'd rather go into silent running as far as Google Latitude is concerned but still be able to see what's around with Qype and do your navigating with CoPilot at the same time, then you can.

YouTube rotate and zoom

The YouTube app is pretty well made as it is and, on the whole, landscape is probably the best orientation to watch it. That said, it's always nice to be offered the choice. From now on you'll not only be able to view clips in portrait but also zoom in and out of them at will too which might actually be worth while if they've been uploaded in a decent enough resolution in the first place.

Custom Dictionary

The iPad already has a spell check in its OS, but it's finally arrived on the touch and phone as well. The software will underline a word in red if it thinks you've misspelled it. A copy and paste-style bubble then pops up giving you the option to tap on the suggested spellings or you can just keep typing if you're happy with the one you've already got. Naturally, the auto-correct mechanism is still in place but there's also an addition in that you can teach it new words by customising your own dictionary. Whether this will sync or is exportable to a new device is unknown.

Calendar events from e-mails

It might not sound like the world's most exciting feature but being able to create calendar events in one touch from e-mails is the kind of addition that actually makes the most difference in the long run. It's these moments of simplicity and convenience that are the ones that convince you that you've signed your life away on the right phone. So, next time someone drops you an invitation to a shin dig into your inbox, you can hew it in stone without having to come out of one app, by going into another and trying to remember all the details as you do so.

Persistent Wi-Fi

A sleeping iPhone will no longer sleep quite so soundly any more. While that may not sound very relaxing for your favourite gadget, it does make it much better as far as the user is concerned. iOS 4 will allow the touch and phone to remain connected to Wi-Fi networks when the screen's at rest and all has gone dark which means your internet connected apps can stay internet connected and operating all the while. You'll have to take a closer look at the software that you use most, but you won't have to get very far down the list before you work out how that's relevant to you. Staying online with Skype or another VoIP program is one that most people will probably be able to appreciate from the start.

Go get your update

Make sure you've got iTunes 9.2 installed, hook your phone up to your machine and click on update if it doesn't already prompt you to download iOS 4 for free. Then, sit back, enjoy and let us know in the comments if you've found a few touches of genius of your very own. If you're wondering why it's not available quite yet, it might be that we're all having to wait for Uncle Steve to get up and have his cornflakes first. 



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